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LOS ANGELES – Talk about being under the gun. USC CU President Gary Perez challenged the CU’s staff to come up with a solution to speed up USC’s auto loan approval process and kept them sequestered until they had a plan. Perez even raised the stakes a bit higher – the plan had to be implemented within three weeks. Twenty-four hours later, the staff emerged from an offsite conference room on the University of Southern California campus with a plan that even Perez couldn’t have imagined. Perez told the staff of the $123 million CU, “I want members to get an answer on their loan application in two minutes, whether they apply in person, online or by phone. Your job is to make it happen.” Irene Nielsen, AVP of Lending said the USC CU’s previous loan procedures took about 10 minutes for a member to complete. That may not sound like a long time, but when you’re competing against dealers offering 0% financing and other competition, time is precious. Perez provided the 10 members of the CU’s staff with the full resources of the credit union, including existing technology and equipment, shifting personnel, or changing procedures. “I wouldn’t open the door until they had a workable plan,” he said. Twenty-four hours later, the staff not only managed to come up with a solution to improving the loan approval process quickly, their plan was implemented within 20 days without the USC CU needing to add personnel or technology. USC CU’s staff delivered a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation to Perez, Nielsen and two other vice presidents. The report included practical recommendations, including ways to improve the credit union’s online processing capability, modify lending criteria, and ways to better use the CU’s data processing system. The report also recommended USC CU work with its data processor, Symitar, to make it easier to access member information to further streamline the loan approval process, and advised that the credit union outsource part of the loan approval process so USC CU staff wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the volume of calls from members. Within a week, USC CU had selected three vendors, received bids, and selected Lending Solutions Inc. LSI installed, tested and began taking calls on the new system within nine days. Aubrey & Associates, USC CU’s marketing agency, developed a campaign to promote the two-minute loan to members and university alumni. The theme “Four wheels, two minutes” was promoted in the CU’s monthly newsletter, on-hold messages, through direct mail, in the CU’s lobby and by distributing mouse pads with the campaign logo imprinted. Aubrey & Associates also worked with USC CU’s IS department to put together a Flash e-mail promoting the two-minute loan. The e-mail went out to 10,000 members with e-mail addresses on file with the credit union. Perez might have had his doubts when he first launched his challenge to USC CU’s staff, but the numbers speak for themselves. Prior to revamping of loan approval process, USC CU’s auto loan portfolio was $36 million. In the first three months that the new system was in place, USC CU closed just under $600,000 in auto loans. In addition, since the new loan process offers the CU more cross-selling opportunities, its total loan portfolio has also gone up – 16% in the past three months. -

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